That time I forgot a crack pipe on my ear.

It was about 8:00am.

I had just arrived at the homeless shelter I worked at.

The details of the day have faded with time, but my memory tells me that it was summer. I think it was one of the 15 days per year when the Chicago area is not too hot, too cold, too humid or too windy. It was perfect weather.

Giddy from the weather, I probably skipped into the building like a grade-schooler. I almost certainly whistled the soundtrack to some bad 80’s romantic comedy.

When I got inside the building, I paused. 

A small glass tube sat silently on an otherwise clean floor. 

Picking it up, I knew immediately what it was…

…A crack pipe (heavily used based on the black smoke stains).

“Hey, Ryan! I need those statistics from you in the next hour if we are going to get this grant done!” It was Jerry, our affable grantwriter.

Absent-mindedly, I put the crack pipe on my ear the way a junior high science teacher might put his #2 pencil on his ear. 

I rushed off to get Jerry the statistics.

A few hours later, I was walking through the lobby of the shelter.

The receptionist stopped me. 

Major donors—a couple who owned their own business—were in the area and stopped by to say “hi.”

I had only been chatting with the multi-millionaire donors for 30 seconds when the receptionist’s face went pale. 

She kept playing with her hair. 

No, not her hair. 

Her ear. 

I ignored her weird ear fixation and kept talking with the donors.

Then the receptionist started coughing. 

She was subtle at first.

Then she got louder and louder.

Soon she was coughing like a character from Friends (Monica Geller maybe?) overacting to get someone’s attention (Chandler Bing’s maybe?). 

And she was still playing with her ear in a dramatic way.

Finally sensing that she was trying to tell me something, I casually put my hand up to my own ear.

I felt cold glass. 

Oh @#@#$!

It was the crack pipe. 

I had put it on my ear hours earlier and completely forgotten about it.

Had the donors seen it? I didn’t know!

If I grabbed it, would it draw their attention?

Should I just leave it and hope they don’t notice?

Frantically, I palmed the crack pipe like a magician still learning a new trick…

…Except instead of making a coin appear behind someone else’s ear, my trick was making a crackpipe disappear behind my own ear!

The donors didn’t notice…

…or they were too polite to tell me…

…I’ll never know!

Crack 101

If you work with the public, you should probably know a little bit about crack.

Here are a few facts I think you should know about crack:

  • Crack is basically just “watered down” cocaine. 

It is made by mixing cocaine powder with water and ammonia or baking soda. 

That mixture is then boiled down until it solidifies. 

The dried glob is then broken up into “rocks” that is typically smoked (rather than snorted like powder cocaine).

  • Crack hits faster (and wears off faster) than powder cocaine.

Crack can be felt as soon as eight seconds after inhalation and lasts approximately 15 minutes. 

It has more of a “rush” than cocaine, which takes three to five minutes to be felt and lasts 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Crack pipes are usually a glass or metal tube with a piece of copper pad (like steel wool) stuffed in the end.

All sorts of things can be turned into a crack pipe, but commonly people use a straw-like tube, rather than a Sherlock Holmes style pipe.

The copper at the front holds the crack rock in place so the user doesn’t suck it into their mouth while lighting it. It is often called a “Chore Boy” after the most popular brand name (which I’m sure the company hates).

Want to learn more about drugs?

Our next training is an overview of everything that people who serve the public should know about drugs. 

Have a fantastic week!


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